Georgieva draws lessons one year after Haiti quake

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Despite the slow pace of reconstruction in disaster-stricken Haiti, the international community must continue to help build up its institutions rather than take over, EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva told EURACTIV in an interview.

Haiti's governing structures are ''slowly getting back on their feet'' but it will be many years – even decades – before the country is properly transformed, she said.

Georgieva was talking to EURACTIV exactly one year since a catastrophic earthquake hit the Caribbean state, which has experienced decades of political instability and violence as well as a series of destructive hurricanes.

''If we have the patience to work towards building bottom up the local system of governance [and] the central institutions, and stay with Haiti for a long time, then there will be a result,'' stated the commissioner.

Despite their anger towards Haiti's political leaders, most citizens would still prefer to have an independent country moving towards a better future, she added.

Haiti, the poorest country in the Western hemisphere, suffered the 7.0 magnitude earthquake on 12 January last year. It killed around 250,000 people, left one million homeless and destroyed vital infrastructure including air, sea and land communication services.

In April 2010 international donors, the largest of which was the EU, pledged €7.3 billion for Haiti. Yet reconstruction work has barely begun, amid profiteering among the country's elite and a political impasse since the disputed election in November, reports Reuters.

Moreover, a second humanitarian crisis has struck Haiti in recent months – a cholera epidemic has now claimed the lives of more than 3,600 people.

Commissioner defends EU aid

Georgieva defended the impact of EU aid in the country, despite widespread criticism of the slow pace and lack of coordination of humanitarian recovery work.

''From the European Union we have provided around €320 million in humanitarian assistance. This money has touched the lives of nearly four million Haitian people. It has provided shelter for 1.1 million people and food day after day for a whole year,'' she affirmed.

''When we think of reversing poverty, we need to look at it for what it is: it's a very long-term project. Countries that have been successful in addressing poverty, like China, they have taken a multi-decade time horizon to transform regions and I think in the case of Haiti, this is the timeline we have to have in mind – one of decades, not of one year,'' she added.

To read the interview in full, please click here.

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